The Healing Blog

Inspiring Zen-based Healing Messages from Kendo, posted Every Month, coinciding with the Distance Healing Ceremony

Kendo’s Healing Message for May

Kendo routinely encounters a wide range of people, from the rich to the “just about managing”, the open-minded to those with fixed opinions, from the generous to the self-interested. As a life-long student of Zen, Kendo himself is accustomed to casting-off opinions along with all other conscious noise, and doing this allows an open-minded approach to all he meets, but can those of us who’ve adopted the Zen ideal more recently develop a similar non-judgemental approach to life?

Working alongside the Lee Rigby Foundation has introduced us at the Nagasaki Retreat to a lot more people who have come from all the above walks of life, so we’ve seen astonishing generosity and willingness to support bereaved families and Veterans in difficulties, but we’ve also seen those who’ve held back from supporting such work. It’s often not easy to understand why anyone would fail to do so, and consequently it’s not easy to avoid wondering why there’s an apparent lack of generosity.

However, as Kendo would point out, we shouldn’t judge a situation which we can never fully understand.

The only person we can truly know is ourselves, so we really can’t know how anyone else feels about something. It may be that another person is sensitive to anything to do with bereavement because they’ve not fully recovered from their own bereavement, or that they don’t know what to think or feel about Veterans because they can’t get past their own fears over how they would react in such challenging and stressful conditions as Veterans have faced. Such personal sensitivities and fears can make it difficult to even broach these big “elephant in the room” issues, and many people understandably avoid confronting them. Sadly, they may even feel guilt about doing so, which may make them even more self-isolating and self-protecting.

Kendo’s main hope for the human condition is that we are all able to be optimistic and generous, being the best we can be in support of our families and communities, and those beyond too, ideally. Based on such a philosophy of life, it’s easy to be naturally generous towards those we know are in need, and as we are all part of the community, doing anything which supports it benefits us too, as our entire society becomes one of support, optimism, and empowerment. However, we also need to extend that generosity of spirit to those seem to set themselves outside this positive ideal – as illustrated above, they may have hidden needs of their own.

Being the best you can be and supporting your community ultimately manifests visibly as a highly positive community, one which is more like a good and strong family, and everyone should feel able to approach it and join in. Kendo would point out that this is why it’s so important not to think negatively about anyone who appears to set themselves apart from you and nurse their own interests; they may simply need a gradual introduction to the benefits of supporting others, and be given the time and opportunity to see that doing so ultimately supports ourselves as well, and all around us too.

Kendo’s Healing Message for April

As we’ve heard, it’s a ‘late spring’ this year – everything in nature seems to have had difficulty in starting its regular routine due to the strange weather. At this time in April, we’re normally anticipating the cherry blossoms coming out in the Anniversary Orchard, but this year there are barely any leaves or buds on the trees yet.

However, despite current appearances, they will come – might this be called an act of faith? Perhaps, but Kendo suggests that it’s probably best thought of as confidence in the outcome, or maybe faith in the future.

It’s not difficult to find examples in our lives of things we’re anticipating, only to be frustrated by having to just wait for them; everything from that next crucial episode in a favourite television drama to recovering from ill-health, sometimes the wait is just infuriating. Kendo points out that as soon as we become aware of that frustration, we’re being reminded to take a Zen approach…

We all learned as children that things can’t be rushed just because we want them now as opposed to later, but as adults, such waits easily manifest as frustration. Kendo points out that it’s essential to let that fall away – frustration is stressful, and as soon as you still your mind and free yourself from the stress of impatience and its associated frustration, you become creative and productive once again. Even a second devoted to bemoaning a frustrating wait is a second you’re failing to listen to your intuitive self – Kendo says, let it go; be Zen; be KyuShinDo.

Waiting is an aspect of time that’s trying to show us something other than frustration – it’s reminding us that we are being presented with an opportunity to be wise. If you do nothing else when you find yourself waiting and frustrated, cast it off and rejoice in the fact that you’ve freed yourself and regained the time you would have devoted to being annoyed. Kendo points out that once you do this, all sorts of other positive and productive ideas will flood into your mind.

In fact, Kendo points out, the cherry blossoms themselves are a remarkable example of this good practice – they are with us for such a short time each year so we anticipate them, but it needn’t be a frustrating wait – the lesson from Japanese philosophy is to recall their exquisite beauty and savour it in the mind’s eye. If nothing immediately comes to mind when you cast off your frustration, perhaps thinking of the beauty of Japanese cherry blossoms would be the perfect thing to reflect upon; so much more satisfying than dwelling upon the frustration of a wait!

Kendo’s Healing Message for March

Kendo says it’s always important to be open to your feelings – they are the gateway to your intuition.

As he’s pointed out many times, Kendo tells us that opening our awareness to our intuitive selves is important, but often not easy. The first obstacle is noise – the constant chatter of the conscious mind, all the details we need to attend to in daily life, everything that people say to us which we need to respond to, and even the constant distraction of TV, the internet, and our phones. Escaping from all that and finding sufficient peace to listen to our own silent inner wisdom is actually quite a challenge.

However, the rewards are priceless. As many philosophers have pointed out, the conscious processes of reason and rationality can be deceived and even confused, so they can’t be relied upon as the ultimate judge of things. As Kendo has repeatedly said, they are essential tools and refining them is important, but they have their limits; they are, after all, recent evolutions, whereas the unconscious intuitive self is timeless.

Those who meditate will know the foregoing all too well, but it’s always worth reminding ourselves of these salient truths – after all, life can be so engrossing and it can be so difficult to find enough time to meditate that we can bee lulled into ‘thinking’ that all is well, when we actually need to be conscientious and look deeper.

When we do, we might be surprised… What we ‘thought’ was fine may not be. Now, if such a caution does come from our intuitive selves, it’s important not to fall into another trap, and search for answers by analysing it; there’s no point in applying a conscious process to intuitive guidance! Instead, we need to still our minds and await further guidance – it will come.

Kendo would point out that the outside world isn’t necessarily bad, but we need to make sure that we make the best decisions for ourselves when we interact with it. This process is an essential part of being the best person we can be – discrimination – it’s actually a fundamental life lesson, and our intuitive selves are our best allies in doing it well and in a timely way.

Kendo says that the value of pausing, stilling the mind, and awaiting intuitive guidance can’t be over-stated.

Kendo’s Healing Message for February

Kendo has long advocated positive thinking, for many reasons.

At the very least, casting off negative thoughts reduces stress which is good for both physical and mental healing, and at best, one’s whole life improves – at times, seemingly miraculously.

When things are difficult, it can be all too easy to feel bleak, to not be able to see a way ahead, and that’s when it’s important to listen to supporting voices. When you hear them, it’s then important to let go of worries and have faith in the optimism around you.

As soon as you can begin to feel part of a positive attitude it can gather its own momentum, particularly when you feel able to contribute to it yourself. Collective optimism is an immensely powerful force with which we can help each other, and in so doing, help ourselves too.

What Kendo is describing here is a kind of community of benevolence. He’s long described Kyu Shin Do, a greater vision which arises from peace at one’s core, and Zen meditation is a highly accessible way in to this state of mind. However, he isn’t evangelical about how we can find peace and strength, nor how we can help others – a great deal can be achieved with just a positive attitude.

Here at the Nagasaki Retreat and the Lee Rigby Foundation, we’re constantly seeing the power of positive thought. We keep meeting more and more incredible people who give so much to help others. All of them have had their own reversals and difficulties at times, but they’ve found help and support when they’ve needed it and they’re passing on that gift to others – it’s an honour and an inspiration knowing them.

In such company it’s impossible not to feel tremendously positive about the kind of community they’re creating – it’s one which is immediately ready to support anyone in need, whoever they are.

It’s important to know that such a willing supportive community exists, that there are so many people ready to lend a hand, because it means that there’s far more to life than whatever difficulties we face. Simply knowing this can be the first step up and out of despair, towards an immensely positive future.

No-one is alone – you can believe that when you reach out, you will find great people to help you.

Kendo’s Healing Message for January

We’re now almost a couple of weeks from the New Year, and its sense of fresh opportunities may well be beginning to fade as we’ve returned to our regular routines. However, Kendo would remind us that New Year optimism is worth remembering every day of the year.

At the Retreat, if you sit in the Contemplation Seat, you’re facing the eastern horizon where the life-giving sun rises every day. Kendo celebrates the New Year by acknowledging its first sunrise, and this is celebrated in Japan as symbolising new energy, new beginnings, and healing. He recommends that our guests meditate at the Contemplation Seat, whatever time of year they’re here.

The power of positive thought is immense – it can motivate, energise, and inspire, even when circumstances can be difficult or even disheartening. There are many reasons why we might feel negatively about our lives, but Kendo would recommend that we recognise when we’re feeling low as the cue to do something about it.

It’s been demonstrated that depression quite literally stops the mind working creatively, and if that’s combined with a “what’s the point?” feeling, we can find ourselves stuck in a bleak place. It’s a natural response to do this – we’re only human after all, and don’t have a boundless capacity to endure all ills – or do we?

One of the reasons Kendo is such an advocate of meditation is that it re-boots the mind, ending persistent negative thoughts and allowing new possibilities to be seen. He reminds us that the mind is a finite thing – it’s job is to make sense of our environments as best it can, but it has limits, and when they’re exceeded, it’s actually unfair of us to expect it to yield every answer to every problem. Worry is an emotional state that distracts the mind and prevents it from working properly, and, as we all know, worry is self-sustaining – we need to break the cycle of seeing no solution and being worried about it.

So, instead of being preoccupied with an apparently insolvable problem and worrying about how and when you’ll sort things out, break the cycle yourself – even if you don’t have the time or opportunity to meditate, a little visualisation can work wonders.

Imagine you’re here at the Retreat, sat in the Contemplation Seat, facing east. Visualise the sun appearing on the horizon, feel its warmth on your skin, and welcome the renewal it represents – regard it as representing all the promise of the first sunrise of a New Year. When you come back from this little visualisation you’ll feel calm and strong and optimistic, relieved of worry and able to look at things in a new way.

By returning to these lovely images whenever you need to, you’ll be able to live every day of the year with the same optimism as you felt on its very first day.

Kendo wishes you all a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Kendo’s Healing Message for December

Kendo has long recommended that we always seek to be the best we can be – as he has – not only for ourselves but also for our families and communities. Any and all aspiration is worthwhile, but what should we do when we feel blocked, obstructed, or unable to make progress?

There is a little phrase that is central to Japanese culture that helps that Buddhist society in remarkably profound and effective ways – it is “Shou ga nai” (pronounced “shaw ga nigh”), and Kendo recommends that we consider its implications.

The literal translation is, “it can’t be helped,” which on the face of it sounds somewhat defeatist, but it’s not that simple. An enlightened approach to the concept reveals that it is actually an aspect of mindfulness – whatever is beyond our control should be allowed to fall away, as in a meditation, so that it no longer preoccupies our consciousness. Doing so frees up our resources to deal with what is actually before us, rather than having our frustration getting in our way.

Just because something ‘can’t be helped’ doesn’t mean it can’t be resolved – it may just need a different approach, or a little more time, and freeing ourselves from frustration will make viable alternatives come much more easily to mind. Likewise, something that ‘can’t be helped’ isn’t necessarily unimportant and should be forgotten about – being the best we can be means we should do out utmost to resolve the challenges we encounter, and freeing ourselves from the mind-set that it’s not possible means it remains possible, with the right state of mind.

“Shou ga nai” is therefore like a micro-meditation – it frees us from frustration and feeling defeated, and it maintains access to every possible solution. When confronted with such a conundrum, it’s perhaps an elegant approach to think of the Buddhist and mindful approach in its native language; say “Shou ga nai” to yourself, relax, and be prepared for your intuition to present alternative solutions.

At the very least, you’ll be able to de-stress, which is always good for your health, and finding those creative solutions will be good for your self-confidence too.

“Shou ga nai” may be the smallest and simplest component to the best “you” that you can possibly be, whatever challenges you face.

Kendo’s Healing Message for November

Here at the Nagasaki Retreat, at our November Event we commemorated Remebrance Sunday, a solemn occasion which respects all those who have given their lives in service. The loss of so many noble souls is tragic, but the example they have left of courage and selflessness is astonishing; arguably, the best way for their sacrifice to matter is to be inspired by it.

It has been said that the worst thing that’s ever happened to you is the worst thing in the world – it’s a sensible argument, because it’s based on your own experience. But ceremonies like Remembrance shed light on challenges and hardships beyond what most of us can imagine, yet those whom we remember courageously chose to meet them – could we do the same?

This is an example of perspective, but it’s often difficult to achieve – it’s easy to become wrapped-up in the here-and-now of our lives, our immediate responsibilities and the demands upon us, to the extent that we may feel we have nothing left in reserve, that we are stretched as far as we could possibly be.

Kendo points out that this is not the case. He assures us that we have only seen how far we can go under the challenges we have already faced, but we should be confident of being able to go much further.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed, we should congratulate ourselves on what we have achieved, on successfully meeting our challenges, and use that positive assessment to build confidence in our futures, whatever they may hold.

To do this requires taking a moment away from our challenges, giving ourselves a few minutes of time to find that perspective, during which we can reflect upon what others with even greater challenges have still managed to do for their families and their communities.

As Kendo points out, those whom we remember will always be glorious, and profoundly inspiring.

Kendo’s Healing Message for October

Last weekend we were delighted that many wonderful people came to the Estate for the opening of the Lee Rigby House. It was truly inspiring to experience everyone’s goodwill and optimism, and their willingness to lend a hand to those who need it so that they can unwind and re-find their strength and balance.

Everyone remarked upon the peace and wonderful ‘feel’ of the setting around the House, which itself is is a powerful testament to the capable and generous people who gave so much of their time and abilities to bring Lyn Rigby’s vision to such excellent fruition. The whole is even more than the sum of its magnificent parts.

The House truly feels like the oasis it was always hoped it would be – it’s steadfast but unassuming, like a good friend, and the harmonious essence of nature surrounds it and flows through it; it is definitely a healing place.

For those of us on the Estate who witnessed the entire project, it’s impossible to look at the House without seeing detail after detail after detail which exists only because of someone’s generosity and compassion, and they are beyond number; the House was literally built with love, and is a monument to it.

Everyone who played a part in this project has so clearly been the very best that a human being can be, and it’s been overwhelming to have seen this from so many people. Their goodwill has effectively made the peace and power of nature easily accessible to those who need to feel it, and it’s an astonishing synergy.

There cannot be a clearer example than the Lee Rigby House of how much selfless goodwill there is in support of those who have lost loved ones, and helping them back to strength and optimism, and feeling part of a most excellent family.

Kendo’s Healing Message for September

There’s never a bad time to remember that there is more to life than our daily lives.

That may sound like a contradiction, but Kendo advises us to remember that we are more than just machines which are meant to deal with all the obligations and necessities we face. It’s by remembering this that we can avoid feeling pulled in every direction, that we have no time for ourselves, and that life is little more than a chore.

Kendo has pointed out that everything we face every day are all opportunities to express ourselves, and ideally to do so in a way which makes the world better. You may think, “I simply don’t have time to dwell on such fanciful thoughts!” – and if you’re very busy, you probably don’t. Well, you don’t have to – but you owe it to yourself to remember that everything that you do with a good heart does that good work, and speaks volumes for your character.

The trick is to let it become automatic. In the word ‘Kendo’ is the word ‘-do’, which in Japanese means ‘way’, but it also means ‘dao’ which means ‘harmonious way’ and ‘way without thinking’. The harmonious way can come from just a few minutes of calm, when you can re-connect with the bigger picture of life. Remember that you are always a part of nature itself, which is a really big and beautiful picture, and entirely harmonious. Briefly letting go of all your cares and worries will let you make that connection and re-find your balance, and once you’ve done it a few times, you’ll find that it’s with you more and more, even through your most intense challenges.

This is Zen – the peace that grounds, gives perspective, and brings the endurance to face anything. Kendo points out that you are not defined by the obligations you face, they are defined by you, and by putting them in their proper perspective and forgetting them for just a few moments will remind you of the harmonious big picture of which you are a part. Then, everything you do and your life itself will automatically be harmonious.

Kendo’s Healing Message for August

One of the most popular experiences for our guests at the Nagasaki Retreat is being in the grounds. They are treated much like the gardens in Buddhist temples in Japan – they are not over-cultivated, and there is nothing artificial or contrived – nature is left to express itself, and all that’s done is to keep things neat and tidy.

Because of this approach, the grounds are as close as possible to the most natural expression of themselves. Kendo is faithful to the Shinto ideal of being as hospitable as possible to every living thing in the grounds – it’s the best way to honour the spirit that each one possesses.

In many ways, this attitude is an act of humility towards nature – it’s also a gesture of respect. Kendo makes this clear when guests come to our Events, and a parallel is drawn to our own spirits; we cannot expect to be treated harmoniously by the universe around us unless we have that same attitude towards it.

Thus, the simplest thing in nature is a reminder of the potential we have for the most positive and complete relationship with the world around us, if we choose it to be so. Kendo recommends that making such a connection should be wordless – it should be intuitive, free from reasoning, unhurried, and mindful, like a good meditation.

Thus, Kendo advises, everything from a single cherry blossom to a mighty Atlas Cedar has the power to take us out of ourselves, to give us a deep peace through connecting with it as an equal in the whole of nature, and thus, Kyu Shin Do detachment and objectivity about our lives.

Kendo points out that you don’t need to be here to practise this healing detachment – taking a moment to contemplate anything in nature, from the smallest to the biggest, can re-connect us with the most natural and most powerful part of ourselves – our intuitive selves. Doing so regularly is powerfully enlightening and healing.